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Some years ago, box springs were popular among sleepers with coil mattresses. They served different purposes, such as improving airflow and enhancing the support of the coil mattresses. However, a lot has changed in the mattress industry. New mattress designs are taking over the market, leaving many sleepers wondering whether they need box springs for their new mattresses.

Although most modern mattresses don't need extra mattress foundations, some mattress warranties require sleepers to use box springs. This article answers all your questions about box springs, helping you make an informed decision before purchasing one.

What is a Box Spring?

A box spring is a type of mattress support base placed inside a bed frame to hold up a mattress. It comprises a box-shaped wooden or metallic frame filled with metallic coils in a grid pattern. It also comes wrapped with a breathable fabric.

Box springs were commonly used with the traditional innerspring mattresses to provide support, and absorb shock. They also made traditional innerspring-type mattresses more responsive to the pressure and weight of a sleeper. However, these supports are less popular today because they aren't compatible with most modern mattresses. This is because various innovations in the mattress industry improved the quality of traditional mattresses, making them more supportive, breathable, and long-lasting. As a result, most modern mattresses don't depend on extra support to function.

Today, foundations are more popular than box springs, although they have several similarities. The difference between foundations and box springs that are typically used for a traditional innerspring mattress is the metallic coils system. Foundations contain wooden or metallic slats instead of the grid of coils found in box springs. Despite this difference, some mattress companies still use the terms 'box springs' and 'foundations' interchangeably, and many consumers still don't know how to tell them apart.

Purposes of a Box Spring

Box springs were important investments back when innerspring traditional mattresses were still popular. The coil system of the mattresses and the box springs complemented each other, and served as shock absorbers to reduce motion transfer, add bounce, and provide more support to the mattresses. Although they are not as common today as they were a few years ago, these supports are still reliable for several purposes.

They include:

Adding Support to Your Mattress

Box springs support your mattress, and prolong its lifespan by avoiding premature sagging. In most cases, coil spring mattresses require the user to place their new mattresses on a traditional box spring to experience and relish all the benefits of their new mattresses.

Improving Airflow

The spaced grids and breathable fabric of a box spring support improve airflow around the mattress, keeping you cool all night. For this reason, a box spring suits a hot sleeper whose mattress is compatible with a box spring.

Absorbing Shock

The metallic coils inside a box spring absorb the shock from the impact and movement on the mattress. As a result, they reduce motion transfer that causes sleep disruptions among sleepers, such as those who share a bed with their partners, kids, or pets. By absorbing shock and reducing direct pressure on a mattress, a box spring also helps prolong the lifespan of a mattress.

Increasing the Height of Your Bed

Box springs add extra inches to your bed, helping you achieve your preferred height. For example, if you are tall, you may need a higher bed, making it easier to get out of bed when you wake up.

Providing Extra Storage Space

If your room is small, and you need extra space, you can create some under your bed using a box spring. Since the traditional box spring elevates a mattress higher, it creates more space under your bed where you can store things away in boxes, drawers, or storage containers.

What are the Types of Box Springs?

Box springs vary in height, aesthetics, and other additional features. Here are some common box springs support bases you need to know.

Standard Size Box Springs

A standard size box spring measures 9 inches in height, and is available in all standard sizes that fit a bed frame. This box spring elevates the bed, especially when used with a thicker mattress. But if you prefer a medium height for your bed, you may need to use a thinner mattress, or opt for a low-profile box spring.

Low-Profile Box Springs

A low-profile box spring is shorter than the standard size box spring. It measures between 5 and 5.5 inches, and is often used with thicker mattresses to create a moderate height. It also provides adequate height for beds with mattresses and mattress toppers.

Ultra-Low-Profile Box Springs

Ultra-low-profile box springs are also popularly referred to as bunkie boards by some manufacturers. They are shorter than the standard and low-profile box springs. Measuring between 2 and 3 inches, these box springs are best for shorter people, or those who prefer lower beds. In addition, Bunkie boards are lighter, cheaper, and easier to transport than large box springs.

Coil Box Springs

A coil box spring has an actual coil system, instead of the modern wooden or metallic slates. Its springy coils make a mattress bouncier, and help soften a firmer mattress. However, a coil box spring may not offer adequate support like the other types of box springs.

Unfortunately, coil box springs are incompatible with most modern mattresses designed for solid foundations. These bases can also cause damage to heavier mattresses, such as latex and memory foam mattresses.

Split Box Springs

Split box springs are the usual box springs mattress foundations made of two separate pieces placed side by side. This design makes it easy to deliver and move large and heavy box spring foundations through tight spaces, such as staircases.

Who Needs a Box Spring?

Whether or not you need a box spring depends on your mattress. As already mentioned, some mattresses don't require a box spring, while others function better with one.

Here are a few reasons you need a box spring.

When You Need a Higher Bed

Tall sleepers often struggle to lift themselves out of a low-lying bed because of their height and weight. Higher beds help taller sleepers have a better sitting posture on the edge of their bed, making it easier to stand. Adding extra height to a bed also benefits seniors, sleepers with limited mobility, and those with body aches and pains.

You can use a box spring supportive foundation to add extra loft and height to your bed to meet your comfort preferences. Additionally, if you prefer sleeping on the floor, you can place the mattress onto the box spring to prevent dirt and moisture from destroying your mattress.

When You Have an Innerspring Mattress

A box spring has several benefits to a traditional innerspring mattress than modern mattresses. It adds extra support, absorbs shock, and reduces motion transfer on the mattress. Although these benefits apply to other mattresses as well, it's advisable to consult the manufacturer before investing in a box spring.

When Using a Collapsible Metal Bed Frame

Box springs and the traditional collapsible metal frames go hand in hand. The contemporary collapsible metal frames don't have slats to support a mattress. Instead, they purposely provide an outlining frame for the mattress. On the other hand, box springs reinforce collapsible frames, and provide a base for the mattress.

Therefore, if you have the traditional collapsible metal frame, you may need a box spring to add support to your mattress as you sleep. However, you don't need a box spring if you have one of the modern collapsible metal frames that come with slats. You also don't need one if you're using an adjustable, or a platform bed frame.

What are Some Box Spring Alternatives?

The immediate box spring alternatives are the popular foundation beds available in different designs. However, if you don't prefer box springs, or your mattress isn't compatible with one, here are some additional alternatives.

Platform Beds

A platform bed is a bed frame with a thick and sturdy in-built foundation.

A platform bed also features a standard mattress-size rectangular frame and horizontal slats placed at least two inches apart on its interior. Wood is the most common material used to make a platform bed. However, several variations feature durable metallic frames.

Most platform beds are low-profile, although some are higher than 5 inches. These platforms also vary in design from simple wooden slats to raised, luxurious platforms covered in breathable fabrics. Since the slats have smaller space between each other, platform beds are compatible with most mattresses, including innerspring, memory foam, and latex mattresses. In addition, the closely fixed slats provide sufficient support to the mattresses, and reduce the chances of sagging.

Mattress Slats

Mattress slats, also called bed slats, are strips of metal or wood laid horizontally inside a bed frame to hold up a mattress. Most slats are interconnected, and easily installed inside the bed frame. However, others need to be installed individually by drilling each slat onto the bed frame.

Slats are available in two distinct forms:

Solid Slats

These slats are made using pine wood, and run across the width of the bed frame. They make firmer bases that provide maximum support to a mattress. Solid mattress slats are ideal for sleepers using heavier mattresses, or those who prefer a firm sleep surface.

Sprung Slats

Sprung slats are flexible, upward arching wooden slats, commonly made using beech wood. The gentle upward arches make the slats elastic, creating a plush bed.

Adjustable Beds

Adjustable beds are flexible bed frames that allow sleepers to customize their sleeping positions. They have multi-hinged bases controlled remotely to raise some parts, such as the head section, or the feet section of the bed. These beds are convenient for sleepers with limited mobility, pain in some parts of their body, or those who want plusher and luxurious beds.

Do Latex Mattresses Need a Box Spring?

Box springs aren't the best bases for latex mattresses for various reasons, as explained below:

  • Latex mattresses are designed for solid foundations because they are heavier than coil and foam mattresses.
  • The weight of latex mattresses can destroy the coil system of the box spring bases, causing them to be less supportive.
  • Latex mattresses are naturally breathable, and don't need more ventilation to improve airflow around the bed.

However, these mattresses require a good mattress foundation to maintain their shape, improve functionality, and prolong their lifespan. They work best with stable bases, such as platform foundations.

How to Choose a Box Spring

Here are some important factors to consider when shopping for a box spring:

The Height of the Box Spring

Box springs come in different heights to suit a sleeper's needs. Higher box springs are ideal for sleepers with difficulties getting out of bed. Lower box springs are great for shorter sleepers, or those who generally prefer lower beds.

In addition, consider the height of the mattress you're using to decide whether you need a higher or a lower box spring.

The Size of Your Mattress

Select a box spring that fits the size of your mattress perfectly to ensure that it is well supported. For a large mattress, such as the queen and king size, consider buying a split box spring to make it easier to move through smaller spaces.

The Type of Mattress

Consult the mattress company to determine whether to use a box spring with your mattress. Using the wrong type of foundation base with your mattress voids the mattress warranty.

How to Set Up a Box Spring

Depending on the designs, some box springs are easier to set up than others. But, generally, most box springs require just a few minutes to assemble.

Here's how to set up a box spring.

  • Ensure that your bed frame is secure, including any slats and screws on the bed.
  • Assemble the box spring (if required) as instructed, before placing it onto the bed frame.
  • Fix all the parts correctly onto the bed frame.
  • Place your mattress onto the box spring.
  • Lay your bed with bedding as usual.

Box Spring FAQs

Some common questions many sleepers ask about box springs include:

Can You Put a Mattress on the Floor?

Although sleeping on the floor may feel comfortable, it may damage your mattress, and compromise its support. Additionally, placing your mattress directly on the floor exposes it to dirt and moisture, creating a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Instead of placing a mattress directly on the floor, you can use a suitable foundation with your mattress to elevate it from the floor, and offer better support.

How do You Know When it's Time to Replace a Box Spring?

A box spring can last between 5 and 10 years, depending on its quality. After that, it may no longer function as effectively as it used to. Generally, you can replace a box spring when it is too old, broken, or damaged beyond repair.

Do Metal Frames Need a Box Spring?

The traditional collapsible metal frames don't have slats that support a mattress. Therefore, they work well with box springs. However, if you have a modern slatted metal frame, you don't need to add a box spring to it.

Do Platform Beds Need a Box Spring?

No, platform beds don't require box springs. They are designed to carry heavier mattresses, without needing more support from box springs.

Do Adjustable Beds Need a Box Spring?

No, an adjustable bed doesn't require a box spring. Given that an adjustable bed has an adjustable base, placing a box spring on its top hinders its movement.

Do Wood Slat Foundations Need a Box Spring?

You don't need a box spring when using a wood slat foundation with in-built wood slats. If you add a box spring to this foundation, your bed will rise higher than the comfortable height, and become less supportive, because of your weight and the force of gravity.

Do Mattress Warranties Require Using a Box Spring?

Not all mattress warranties require using a box spring. In most cases, innerspring mattresses recommend the use of box springs. However, other modern mattresses, such as memory foam and latex mattresses, don't pair well with a box spring.

About Latex For Less Mattresses

Latex For Less offers world-class quality latex mattresses made from pure latex, organic cotton, and natural wool. These mattresses have two firmness levels on either side, allowing sleepers to decide which side suits them by a simple flip of the mattress. In addition, the mattress comes with a 20-year mattress warranty, and a 120-night free trial.

Does a Latex For Less Mattress Need a Box Spring?

Unlike most latex mattresses, the Latex For Less 100% natural latex mattress is compatible with a box spring with slats that are no more than three inches apart. It can also be used with a mattress foundation bed, and an adjustable base.

The Latex For Less mattress foundation is made from natural spruce, wood, and a soft, breathable cotton cover. Its slats are precisely measured to ensure your mattress receives the maximum support it needs.

On the other hand, the Latex For Less adjustable base is the ultimate comfort customizing bed. It comes with three preset positions, and still allows you to set your preferred comfort.

You can order your mattress, and the base of your choice, all under one roof here at Latex For Less to enjoy the best night’s sleep. And, if you didn't know, Latex For Less will ship the mattress to your doorstep at no cost to you!

Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth Magill is a professional freelance writer and editor who holds an MBA. Liz specializes in writing about health news, medical conditions, healthy living, small business, career and work, personal finance, and green-living, including news and trending topics in these specialties. Her clients include Healthline, The Motley Fool, GoBanking Rates, LIVESTRONG.com, Big Interview, HealthNews, Intuit Small Business Blog, Intuit Health, American News Report, Travels.com, IFX Medical, and many others. She’s also a published eBook author and ghost writer for various clients in the health, medical, career, small business, and personal finance niches.